Lessons on branding from Margaritaville

Last summer I booked a plane ticket to the San Diego area where my cousin Grace lives after she mentioned that she and her friends had tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert there in October.
A few years ago, I became a self-proclaimed late-in-life Parrot Head (the moniker given to Buffett fans) and was excited to finally see a concert.
Sadly, by the time the concert arrived, Buffett had to cancel for health reasons.

Emily Caswell, Brand Manager for View Newspaper Group

I still took the trip and took my first surfing lesson — at 41 years old — inspired in part by the singer.
Buffett passed away over Labor Day weekend. I love that he lived through one last summer. While I never got to see Buffett in concert, his music, his business sense, and of course, his brand remain an inspiration.
I’m not sure what took me so long to buy into the Buffett brand (I’ve long loved a beach, a pool and a cocktail), but once I really understood the whole package, I become a bit obsessed with it.
You can’t hear Buffett’s name or the words “margarita” or “cheeseburger” or even “5 p.m.” without images of Hawaiian shirts, blue water, white sand, pools and cold drinks coming to mind.
The Buffett brand achieved what any great brand hopes to. It’s not just a logo, a face, merchandise. It’s a feeling. One of relaxation. It’s a vibe. And for Buffett that vibe is positive.
The Buffett brand has a far reach. Along with music it includes: books, movies, Broadway, restaurants, beer, retirement communities, casinos, retail stores, cruises, a record label and cannabis. There are licensed products too. Who hasn’t made a cold drink in a Margaritaville blender? My favorite pool float is branded Margaritaville. The list goes on.
It’s easy to see how in 2023 Buffett was officially named a billionaire by Forbes.
A Forbes article on the billionaire and his brand said this, “He lived up to his brand — as he did until the end of his life – a mix of the artist’s temperament and a slacker’s persona with the singular focus of an entrepreneur that ultimately earned him that most elusive of accolades: entertainer billionaire.”
Since becoming a Parrot Head, and especially in the past week, I’ve read a lot about Buffett — the man and the brand. Here are a few lessons on branding — be it personal or business — from Margaritaville:
Give it your all: To achieve to type of success Buffett had he couldn’t always be as laid back as his public persona would have you believe. An inc.com article written by one of his friends after his passing addresses that thought. “The insiders’ joke was that he was about the least laid-back guy you were ever gonna meet. Whether it was music, his Margaritaville-themed businesses, charity, or politics, it was the same story — if he was in, he was in 110% and he did everything with a vengeance.”
Be nice: Musician Jack Johnson wrote a tribute that really stuck out to me. It read “I learned my first chords on the guitar because of Jimmy Buffett. My dad’s friend taught me how to play A Pirate Looks at 40 when I was 14 years old. Years later our paths eventually crossed when Jimmy joined me at one of my shows to play that song together. Back stage as we ran over the song he pointed out that I had been playing the wrong chords for about 15 years. But in his laid-back style he said ‘Let’s do it like that … I love your version’ and so that’s how we always played it. Jimmy Buffett was an easy going and as sweet of a person as his songs were on the ears …”
The same inc.com article addresses the fact that Buffett didn’t take himself too seriously, and I think Johnson’s Story is a perfect example.
Do your best and you’ll succeed: It’s hard to please everyone, and Buffett had a way to deal with the haters, pleasing himself. From the inc.com article, “When he faced criticism, complaints, and even outright rejection or disappointment, Jimmy always took a step back and said that he could only do his best and that, as long as he did that, he could live with whatever came after. Success is fleeting, but excellence is forever. His work was a wonderful part of his life, but making a living was only a part of making a life worth living.”
The lyric may be “wastin’ away in Margaritaville” but Buffett knew there was nothing wasteful about taking the time to relax, because chances are it’s 5 ‘O Clock somewhere. Cheers!
What’s your favorite Jimmy Buffett song and why?
Email me at ecaswell@mihomepaper.com.
Emily Caswell is the Brand Manager for VIEW Group, the branding division of View Newspaper Group.

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